To help us sort through the two events and their meanings, we interviewed prominent, thoughtful Americans who've lived through both attacks. The following people in their 70s and above spent their lives understanding America and writing or talking about it. They became the narrators of this story.
Russell Baker was born in 1925 and grew up in Baltimore, MD. He served as a Navy flier during World War II but saw no combat. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, he worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun and the New York Times until 1962, when he began writing his "Observer" column for the Times op-ed page. He wrote that column until his retirement in 1998. Baker won a Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for his best-selling memoir, Growing Up. Since 1993, he has been the host of Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. He lives in Leesburg, Virginia.
Senator Daniel Inouye
When Daniel Inouye was elected to the House of Representatives in 1959, he became the first Congressman from the new state of Hawaii, and the first American of Japanese descent to serve in Congress. He was elected to the first of seven U.S. Senate terms in 1962. Inouye was born in Honolulu in 1924. On December 7, 1941, as a 17-year-old volunteer medical aid worker, he was one of the first to handle civilian casualties resulting from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A highly decorated World War II veteran, Inouye lost his right arm in 1944 while fighting in Italy with the U.S. Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Pete Seeger was born into a family of musicians and political activists in Patterson, New York, in 1919. He took up the banjo in 1936, and went on to perform with Woody Guthrie and other pioneers of modern American folk music. In 1939 and 1940, Seeger worked with folklorist Alan Lomax at the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk Song, traveling and recording folk musicians such as Hudie Ledbetter (Leadbelly). Seeger's best-known compositions include "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and his adaptation of a spiritual that became known as "We Shall Overcome." He lives in Beacon, New York.
Fiction writer Elizabeth Spencer was born in Carrolton, Mississippi, in 1921. She's the author of many novels and story collections and a five-time recipient of the O. Henry prize for short fiction. While widely considered a Southern writer, Spencer lived in Italy and Canada for many years and set many stories in those countries, including her best-known work, the novella, The Light in the Piazza. Since 1986, Spencer has lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
During a 40-year career as United Press International's White House Correspondent, Helen Thomas covered eight presidents, from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton. She became the first female member of the National Press Club when it opened its membership to women in 1971. Thomas now writes a syndicated column for Hearst Newspapers. The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, she was born in 1920 in Winchester, Kentucky, and grew up in Detroit.
The nephew of longtime NAACP leader Roy Wilkins, Roger Wilkins was born in 1932 and grew up in Harlem. His career has ranged from government service to journalism to academia. He served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Johnson Administration. As an editor with the Washington Post, he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for the paper's coverage of Watergate. He's the author of several books, including Jefferson's Pillow: The Dilemma of Black Patriotism. Wilkins lives in Washington, D.C. and teaches history at George Mason University.